PRINT December 2004

FILM: Best of 2004

James Quandt


1. The World (Jia Zhang-ke) Baudrillard goes to Beijing. In Jia’s sad, encompassing vision of the new China, all is fake, forgery, or facsimile—except the desire to escape.

2. Notre Musique (Jean-Luc Godard) Godard’s Dantean triptych spills us into the abyss of the last century and suggests we will live forever with its slaughterous legacy.

3. 10e Chambre, Instants d’audiences (Raymond Depardon) The French photographer turns the proceedings of a Paris courtroom into a Balzacian fresco; funny and flinch-making.

4. Rheinmetall/Victoria 8 (Rodney Graham) A massive, clattery, ’50s Italian projector produces soundless imagery of another vintage machine: a ’30s German typewriter on whose keyboard sifts and settles a fine white powder. Flour? Crematoria residuum? The ashes of time? In any case, a slow snow of oblivion.

5. Café Lumière (Hou Hsiao-hsien) Ironically, as Ozu’s influence on Hou moves from inadvertent to blatant in this lovely homage, it also becomes more oblique, assimilated.

6. Tropical Malady (Apichatpong Weerasethakul) A Thai gay animist fable paralleling two love stories in which the hunter and the hunted yearn for mergence.

7. Vento di terra (Vincenzo Marra) A modest, moving Neapolitan update on Rocco and His Brothers; the accumulation of misfortune and grief would be too much to bear were it not for the film’s clenched precision.

8. La Blessure (Nicolas Klotz) This bruising, lucid portrait of African immigrants in Paris is truly bouleversant.

9. The Big Red One (Samuel Fuller) Fuller’s butchered swan song, lovingly reconstructed by Richard Schickel, now finds its antiheroic twin in Nicholas Ray’s recently restored Bitter Victory.

10. Trilogy: The Weeping Meadow (Theo Angelopoulos) The Greek master’s best film in over a decade returns to the brumous, bloody terrain and Brechtian mode of The Travelling Players.

James Quandt is senior programmer at Cinematheque Ontario in Toronto.